I have, for many years now, been blending a very nice kinnikinnick for use in pipe ceremonies.  "Kinnikinnick" means "that which is mixed", and refers to both smoking mixtures in and of themselves, and to certain herbs commonly used therein, most notably Red Willow bark (Cornus stolonifera) and Bearberry leaves (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), though other plants have been given this title as well.  Though not all do, my blend contains Tobacco mixed along with the other herbs, and I feel that it cannot be left out of the mixture if one wants to retain the all the medicine that the smoke may offer.  While many believe Tobacco is an unhealthy, dangerous plant, I feel that, like so many things, if used properly its virtues far outweigh its vice.


Smoking Tobacco as an act of prayer has been practiced as long as Tobacco has been available to our kindred, and throughout all the lands where Tobacco has since traveled.  It is an entirely different practice than habitual smoking, which is properly characterized as the abuse of Tobacco: We are abusing it.  And if we abuse it, the way it tells us that this is wrong is by making us sick.  It will do this until we learn to listen.


Tobacco's very essence is that of Prayer Medicine, and it is in this context that it can be used as a powerful ally and spiritual medicine.  To be used in such a way requires Ceremony.  There are as many Ceremonies as there are people who pray with Tobacco.  Because the use of Tobacco in pipe ceremonies comes to us from the indigenous peoples of the Americas, there are many strong feelings about the proper way in which to use Tobacco in prayer, and what constitutes respectful and disrespectful interpretations of the many indigenous traditions in which Tobacco is held sacred.  This, however, is not a place in which I will tread into such territory.  There are better forums and situations in which the many points of view can be heard and considered.  What I would offer is that the prayerful use of Tobacco and Kinnikinnick be rooted in deep respect and reverence; in consciousness and honesty.  Please, I ask that you do not make this smoking blend and use it in a way that dishonors either the Tobacco and herbs it contains, or your own health and well being.


I have always "eyeballed" the proportions, so please know they are not "fixed" in any way.


roughly equal parts by volume:


  ...yerba santa leaves

  ...raspberry leaves


slightly smaller parts each:

  ...bearberry leaves

  ...red willow bark


Perhaps you might use 1/3 cup of the first three ingredients, and 1/4 cup of the following two.  If so, figure in that the Raspberry leaf is a bit "poofier" than the Tobacco, and so will need to be pressed down a bit, and that the Yerba Santa is a bit heavier and you may perhaps use a wee bit less.  Be aware that Red Willow is not a willow at all, but the Red Osier Dogwood, Cornus stolonifera.  Also, I should say that the Tobacco I use in this mix is cured using molasses, giving it a richer, deeper flavor than commonly available Tobacco.


Like most smoking mixtures, it is nicest if it's holding a tad of moisture, and this can be achieved either by adding an apple or pear slice to the container it sits in for a little while, or by adding one of those ceramic discs used to moisten pipe tobacco (never tried that; pear is really quite nice).  Please know as well that this is a pipe mixture, and won't smoke well rolled in papers.  Beyond that, the disposable nature of rolled smoking herbs is less conducive, I believe, to the nature of smoking as Ceremony.


Using this blend in pipe ceremonies has literally always brought me to a deep place of perspective on what I have prayed for, and on the absolute connectedness of all things.   I have used pipe ceremonies to forge deeper connections with the plants I work with.  I have shared ceremony with others and seen this medicine touch and heal people.  This profound healing is as real as the harm that may come from the abuse of smoke plants. 


Please make, and use, this Kinnikinnick with my heartfelt blessings.



Other excellent resources for insights into smoking mixtures:

...Howie Brounstien's Herbal Smoking Mixtures booklet

...Mairi Ross's Smoke Plants of North America

...Sun Butler's The Ceremony of Tobacco

Exceptional quality, prayerfully grown organic Tobacco can be had from:

...Organic Smoke (Sun Butler formerly ran Sotoya Ceremonial Tobacco)

jim mcdonald

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